Simcha Fisher Continues Speaking Common Sense

to panicky bedwetters who are convinced that every time the pope clears his throat his sole purpose is to betray them.

It is truly bizarre to live in a time when self-described faithful Catholics seriously seem to believe that God has laid it on their humble shoulders to defend the Faith from the Pope. What massive hubris.

So. About that latest interview. You know. The one where the pope said all those allegedly horrible and indefensible things. Personally, I didn’t find anything he was reported as saying as incompatible with the Tradition. But here’s the thing:

Respected French Vatican writer Jean-Marie Guénois confirmed with Scalfari that he didn’t tape the interview, nor did he take notes, so the text was an after-the-fact reconstruction.

He didn’t tape the interview.  He didn’t take notes.

He didn’t tape the interview.  He didn’t take notes. 

He didn’t tape the interview.  He didn’t take notes

Now the genius of the Conservative Anti-Charism of Discernment, which is well on the way to anointing Francis the Heretic Pope for his failure to say the correct shibboleths and code words, and his crime of making conservatives have to think, is that as Simcha points out, everything he says and does can and will be used against him in the Combox Star Chamber. When it turns out that, at best, what we have is the memories of an 88 year old man recounting the conversation he had, the strategy for the Freakouters will be simple:

WHY DOES THE POPE ALLOW HIMSELF TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD????!!!! IT’S A VERY BAD SIGN THAT THE POPE IS CONSTANTLY HAVING TO HAVE HIS WORDS EXPLAINED!!!!!!!

Yeah. Totally unlike, say, Jesus Christ, whose words have only had to be explained every single day for 2000 years by the Church. What, after all, could be clearer than “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God” or “The Father is greater than I” or “There are some standing here who shall not taste death before the Kingdom of heaven comes” or, well, almost anything else he said and did. Heck! “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” was used to obtain a death sentence against him.

Seriously, people should really attempt the radical experiment of actually listening to Francis and trying to understand him in light of the Church’s teaching instead of perpetually worrying about how somebody they don’t like will misunderstand him. It could be (O horrible thought!) that in coming to understand what Francis is actually saying that we and the person we dislike will actually find something to agree on.

Or is tribalism (that is, heresy) really that important to us that we will seriously delude ourselves that God has laid it on our humble shoulders to defend the Church from the Pope?

  • CrustyNatsFan

    He didn’t tape the interview?! He didn’t take notes?!

    • Donna

      I am flabbergasted by this as well. Maybe it’s because he’s 88 years old and from a very different era, but still … in this day and age who in the world sits down to an interview of this magnitude without recording it, much less taking notes.

  • FavaBeans

    So is it OK to suggest that some of the quotes were in fact a bit wishy washy now? But that the people who pointed that out at first are still wrong, because fanaticism?

    • chezami

      Or you could consider the possibility that the guy basically got the tenor of the pope’s remarks right but the the quotes are not exact and that cows you guys are having come from demanding a precision of language that was not part of the reportage. But of course that would require committing the mortal sins of faith, hope and charity and Reactionaries are ever-vigilant against that.

      • Nan

        The Pope should always been as precise as humanly possible. He can have as many off the cuff convos with whomeever he likes, but it’s shockingly imprudent in today’s world to let an article like this be circulated with approval. I’m less worried about the content than about the lack of judgment on the Pope’s part in agreeing to this and its publication as it is.

        • HornOrSilk

          What about Jesus, who said he would avoid such, at times?

        • chezami

          And this is the fundamental spirit of Fortress Katolicus speaking. The Pope’s job is to draw very sharp lines to keep out the riff raff and protect the Pure within the fortress. Whereas the pope is busy *crossing* lines to bring in the riff raff and the Reactionaries are freaking out because of it.

          • Evan

            I’ve actually see several reactionaries on other Catholic blogs say that the main problem with Francis is that he does not believe in evangelization or teaching the faith, and as a result he is endangering the salvation of many souls.
            I keep wanting to respond: “Evangelization. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

            • chezami

              “He’s too popular with non-Catholics!” and “he’s not evangelizing anybody” is one of the central contradictions in the Reactionary narrative. Meanwhile, Reactionary evangelism basically consists of “Stop wearing pants and put on a skirt, you hoar!” and “Why didn’t the pope tell that Muslim girl she and her kind are going to hell?” The rest of the time, they spend most of their time attacking people like Catholic Answers for the crime of bringing in the riff raff.

              • TheRealAaron

                you hoar!
                No need to be so frosty! ;)

                • Marthe Lépine

                  Oh yes there is such a need. I have read a number of posts and their comments about the great skirt discussion, and I personally found them rather offensive, to say the truth.

                  • TheRealAaron

                    Sorry, that was supposed to be a pun on the misspelling as “hoar.” Apparently it wasn’t as funny as it sounded in my head. :-/

          • Tom Leith

            Yep. Pontifex == “Bridge-Builder”

          • Elliot Bougis

            No, Mark, it’s the voice of genuinely distressed Catholics–you know, those plebeians whom you’re so, like, obliged to treat as family–expressing their struggle with being scandalized by a Pope who seems more inclined to speak loosely, and at great length, with the MSM than with his own flock.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Actually, you have just confirmed what Mark said above, since it sounds to me like you consider MSM as the riff raff and the reactionaries as the Pope’s own flock… Just saying!

        • Marthe Lépine

          And please tell me, who are you to consider yourself qualified to tell the Pope how he should do his work? Saying things like “should always be as precise as humanly possible” or “It’s shockingly imprudent … to let an article like this be circulated with approval”, and even worse, claiming that the Pope is lacking in judgement, sounds to me to be shockingly arrogant. I can understand Mark’s impatience and use of strong language when dealing with such obtuse as some of you conservatives can be in your comments. I grew up and was educated, and later was guided in my faith development, by people who took for granted that the Pope, as representative of Jesus on earth, and earthly supreme authority to the Church, should be respected, and does not need to be told what to say and do, and how to say and do it, but rather be listened to.

        • enness

          “The Pope should always been as precise as humanly possible.”
          Why?

      • Marcel

        “But of course that would require committing the mortal sins of faith,
        hope and charity and Reactionaries are ever-vigilant against that.”

        Good job avoiding that trap.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    So, if there was no recording and no notes, there can be no transcript and the quotes we’ve been reading are questionable because they may not actually be quotes? Am I reading this right?

    • chezami

      The coverage I’m seeing is that basically Francis was content that he caught the tenor of the conversation well enough that he had no objection. At the same time, don’t assume that any given “quote” is a quote. Bottom line: don’t look to this interview exact theological precision. Do look to it for a pretty good sense of what the Pope has to say in a conversation with an old Italian atheist.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        Ye gads, what a kerfuffle.

        • Elliot Bougis

          This is not a kerfuffle. It’s part of the plan. This papacy is now on record as favoring the general “sense” over exact meaning, image and impression over text and consistency. A new genre of papal speech requires a new hermeutic, donchaknow. Replace the hermeneutic of continuity with the (Jesuit) hermeneutic of casuistically plausible deniability, the hermeneutic of the suspension of disbelief. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you…..”

  • bear

    This is starting to be a little like trying to explain to UFO tconspiracy theorists that 5,000 fake photos of flying saucers does not prove the exitence of ET.

  • BigBlueWave

    Mark, I am with you in spirit but “bedwetters” is out of line in my humble opinion. Can we keep that kind of name-calling out of the discussion? It’s already nasty enough as it is. But I agree with you 100%.

  • http://www.subcreators.com/blog Lori Pieper

    There is definitely a disconnect here.

    We’ve got a Pope who tells us we need to go out of ourselves as a Church, because we spend too much time in reflecting angstily over ourselves. He tells us to get out onto the streets and highways and bring in those lost sheep. He tells us to reach out to the wounded and the fallen. He says we’re all responsible for this, and he is leading us boldly by his example.

    This is the perfectly diamond-clear message of Pope Francis that doesn’t need any parsing, contextualizing or explaining. What we get instead, with some people, the minute the innate messiness of this procedure surfaces, is

    “It’s so much WORK to have to explain the Pope’s latest interview to my non-Catholic friends! The Pope has got to stop talking!”

    “If this keeps up, I’m going over to the SSPX!”

    “It’s hopeless! All we have to do is wait patiently for the next Pope who will revive Summorum Pontificum!”

    “Well, I’ve got my Knox Biblical translation, my Office and my Rosary. I’m going to hunker down – call me when this papacy is over” (Yes, I have actually read this one).

    Let’s not forget the firestorm that erupted the moment Francis chose to disregard a single liturgical rubric at the Holy Thursday Mass in favor of care for the imprisoned (do you think that might just possibly be what he meant when he spoke about “obsession” with the small rules?)

    And all the varied responses you can think of involving the word or thought “We’re doomed . . . doomed I tell you!”

    And people complain Francis is hard to understand? Evidently he is, when he says what you don’t want to hear, or are too lazy to do.

    No, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind here. I didn’t use the word “Reactionary” or “Rad-Trad” or even “bedwetter” once.

    Because this applies to all of us in one way or another.

    (Oh yes, great post, Mark! I’ve always thought the way the disciples sometimes parsed Jesus’ words to be hilarious beyond satire. Just shows you what fools we can all be as disciples).

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    panicky bedwetters who are convinced that every time the pope clears his throat his sole purpose is to betray them.

    Don’t do this. As someone who has been defending the Pope, and as someone who thinks the Pope is making a bold move in a positive direction that may be being misunderstood – please, Mark. Don’t do this.

    Don’t tell a community of socially conservative Catholics – who do have their flaws, I readily admit – that they’re being ‘panicky bedwetters’. These are men and women who are living in a world that is hostile to them, hostile to their opposition to abortion, hostile to their opposition to gay marriage, hostile to their defense of *orthodox Church teaching*. The one place many of them drew encouragement from was the Church and the Pope.

    Now, I think they’re overreacting, and I think they’re seeing the Pope’s words mangled and abused in many cases. (When NARAL puts out a ‘Thank you, Pope! Sincerely, all pro-choice women.’ response, despite the Pope not budging an inch on that teaching, that’s abuse.) But when they’re feeling dispirited, being called panicked bedwetters is just cruel. Save that for groups who deserve it.

    And no, don’t say that you’re only referring to some tiny group of particularly hostile people. At least try to understand why they’re upset and take them seriously, even if you argue against htem.

    • chezami

      I. am. mortally, sick of Catholics who, on the flimsiest provocation have the temerity, not to say, “I’m puzzled by the Pope’s words” but “This Pope has betrrayed us.” Would to God most of the conservative treating him like the Heretic Pope *did* have questions and concerns. A hell of a lot of them have *no* questions or doubts. They have certitude that he is an enemy of the Faith and that God died and made them the sole saviors sent into the world to protect the faith from the Pope. It’s massively arrogant. And this arrogance that I am addressing.

      • Stu

        Yes, Mark. You have have established that some are way too quick to pass judgment on the Pope. Fine. But what are you trying to accomplish with the continual name-calling and such? Are you trying to bring them back into the fold? Or are you attempting to build your own fortress and drive them away. Bitching and moaning about them is easy. How about take it up a notch and actually attempt to make a convincing case that persuades them to see things differently? You know, kind of like evangelization even if it means you rhetorically have to take it on the chin a whole bunch for the team. Instead of obsessing on what is wrong with them, you might want to attempt to show them the bigger picture.

        The current approach is underwhelming.

        • Elliot Bougis

          Name-calling sells, stoopid.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        They have certitude that he is an enemy of the Faith and that God died and made them the sole saviors sent into the world to protect the faith from the Pope. It’s massively arrogant. And this arrogance that I am addressing.

        Okay, fine. Let’s grant for a moment that you are addressing a group of incredibly arrogant people. Keep in mind that I don’t think your target audience is necessary going to know when you’re addressing the wildest ‘The Pope is the enemy of the faith’ sorts, or merely ‘What the pope said here is wrong and is going to cause problems.’ And if you think the latter deserve mockery and talk about how they’re ‘bedwetters’, well, do as you will. And I stand by what I said.

        But sure, let’s grant it. Have you stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, these are people who ARE confused – *justifiably* confused – and maybe you should have a different approach with them? I may not be some well-known blogger like yourself, but at least I’ve been trying to communicate to people what I think the Pope is doing, why I think many of their reactions are overreactions, and more. You are calling people who consider themselves faithful Catholics – people who have, *against the culture*, defended orthodox Church teaching (particularly the unpopular parts.)

        Oh, and by the way – these people are *being actively baited by socially liberal people who ARE hostile to the Church and church teaching.* You yourself have to see them engaged in this baiting, fanning these flames.

        So put yourself in their shoes. The Pope is taking a new approach, an orthodox but still conciliatory approach towards more liberal Catholics, and criticizing – in my view, rightly criticizing – some of the focus of conservative Catholics. On the one hand, you have the liberals trying to present the Pope as being a gay-marriage approving, abortion-accepting, contraception-promoting, women-priest-conceiving heteric. They’re getting worked up, worried, and they feel betrayed. So your contribution is to call them bedwetters and mock them?

        No. It’s wrong. What’s more, this is exactly the sort of thing Pope Francis is trying to get past. So please, knock it off.

        • enness

          I argued at first, when the new translation came out, that the change was going to be experienced by many people as a kind of loss. A year later, the excuses are played out and patience wears thin.

          Perhaps we got too comfortable for eight years in the perception of ruling the roost.

      • Dagnabbit_42

        Beyond Crude’s admonition and Stu’s, I’ll add:

        Pope Francis doubtless has his good points and his bad points as we all do.

        Leaving unaddressed the question of whether any of his recent media-sensationalized statements constitute a revelation of his good points or of his bad points, I ask:

        Is it one of Pope Francis’ good points, that he, in your shoes, would have done as you did, called these panicky Catholic “bedwetters,” et cetera? Would have taken the same tone about them, overall?

        Or would a different approach have been more consistent with what you’d regard to be Pope Francis’ good points?

        While I don’t at all insist that all Christians should have identical personality traits — saints are the most unique of God’s creations in many ways — it seems to me that the points of Pope Francis’ practices which are most worthy of general emulation are precisely those which mitigate against your approach.

      • Marthe Lépine

        I agree with you, Mark, on this. Who gave those conservatives who are quite vocal in their disapproval the authority to judge the Pope? I find it shocking to read people commenting about how they think the pope “should” present his message, about how the Pope should have “handlers” (a term that I find highly offensive, even if it is in accepted use when it is about politicians; it sounds to me as if those politicians, or Pope Francis in the present case, are only puppets, or worse, trained animals, to be manipulated in public to behave in a politically correct fashion) to keep his message on line, or that he should have someone review his talks before he opens his mouth, and other such things that sound not only stupid to me, but highly arrogant. How many of those critics have the level of training and of experience that Pope Francis has had? When someone is puzzled, maybe it would better for that puzzled person to do a little study of Church teaching and a little thinking about what Pope Francis has said, and in what context, before declaring that he is failing in this or that aspect of the message. And… some of Mark’s readers might be offended by my opinion, but every time I read such criticisms of Pope Francis, I cannot help thinking back to an encyclical letter from Pope Leo XIII written over a century ago about American Exceptionalism… I think that this heresy is still quite alive and well in your country! And, as a foreigner, I am very very tired of it!

        • Dave G.

          To be honest Marthe, it has little to do with anything you’ve said. This growing tendency for Catholics to resort to childish insults and baseless accusations to enforce nothing other than ‘shut up and obey the Pope’ is enough to get me more curious than I have been that there’s legit reasons to be concerned. I wasn’t at first. I thought Francis was fine. But nothing will raise the flags with me more than that tendency of folks to say ‘Jesus said the Pope is right, now shut up or your mamma wears army boots!’ It never impressed me when Protestants out of certain fundamentalist camps used that approach (and they sometimes did). It doesn’t impress when Catholics use it today.

      • CatholicP.R.is solemn nonsense

        The thing is, some people have been watching Jorge Bergoglio for a long time. Everything he’s said and done as Pope Francis squares with his decades-long m.o. This is all anyone needs to know about him: a group of traditional Catholics send him a spiritual bouquet of rosaries, and he ridicules them behind their backs. This is a lifelong pattern. Not all are equal to him. He’ll kiss the feet of some, and he’ll spit at others with his words. Go back and read everything he’s said since he’s been Pope, including the summaries of his daily homilies. Read what his own family members have said about his temperament.

      • enness

        I haven’t heard the phrase “tough love” from the right in a while. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

    • jenny

      I think that Mark is right in what he wrote….

      On the same line:…..JP2 was asked one time how many work in Vatican?
      He answered:”….half…”.

    • jenny

      Dear Crude,

      ” all pro-choice women…”
      I would rather say that there are 50% pro-choice women and 50% pro-choice men……
      If it takes two to make a child, then it takes two to abort a child, too.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        I would rather say that there are 50% pro-choice women and 50% pro-choice men……

        I’m just going by what NARAL’s little graphic said. And I think they would disagree that it takes two to abort a child. They’re not quite big on men having any say in that whatsoever.

        • jenny

          ..men have a say in aborting their child, by the simple act of “disappearing” …

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Argue with NARAL. As far as laws go, they disagree.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

          There are also a lot of women who are pressured into abortion by men — fathers, husbands, boyfriends, etc. Men may not have much of a say when they don’t want an abortion, but they sure do when they don’t want a child. The idiotic Men’s Right Movement has even taken this particular issue up as a cause, fighting for the right for a man to walk away from a woman he has impregnated, with no consequences.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I refuse to get dragged into a side issue on this. Suffice to say, if you think that ‘men have a role in abortion too’, your argument is with NARAL. From their perspective, men have and should have absolutely no role, especially with regards with rights to contest abortion.

            Don’t like the idea that a decision to abort is the woman’s alone? Then your fight is with NARAL. Not me.

        • enness

          Oh no, they’re fine with men having a say, as long as it’s the correct one.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

      In the past few weeks, and even several minutes ago, I’ve read comments from a lot of people who have flat-out insulted the Pope, called him all sorts of derogatory nicknames, and said he is a heretic and/or evil. I think that is qualitatively different from being “dispirited” by his statements, and I’m not inclined to take their concerns seriously.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        I think that is qualitatively different from being “dispirited” by his statements, and I’m not inclined to take their concerns seriously.

        You should, for three reasons.

        First – ‘panicky bedwetters’ isn’t exactly a honed statement. It’s not going to only be people acting like sedevacantists who will feel insulted. It’s anyone who has had a problem with what the Pope has said, or how he’s been communicating.

        Second, because sincere disagreements should always be taken seriously. We have enough hostility between ‘factions’ of Catholics. Sometimes this hostility is warranted, but for anyone who is sincerely struggling to be committed to orthodoxy (as these people seem to be), then already there is at least some common ground. We should work with that.

        Third, Pope Francis is reaching out to a lot of people who loved to mock the previous Pope as freaking Emperor Palpatine. He is reaching out to atheists and agnostics and more people, many of whom have at the very least some Catholic-hostile people among their number. If we reach a situation where the people who are pro-gay-marriage, pro-abortion, etc, get the nice, civil tongue, but the people who want their Pope to be orthodox get insults and namecalling, we are simply repeating the very mistake that Francis is trying to correct.

        Mark calling whole, broad groups of people ‘panicky bedwetters’ is a bad move. It’s wrong to do, it’s ill-considered, and it can only harm things. He should stop.

        • Marthe Lépine

          I am not sure that people who act quite arrogantly by saying they want the Pope to be orthodox (as if they knew better than him) do not actually deserve some name-calling…

          • AnsonEddy

            Easy, Marthe. You are obviously angry here. But it is in anger that we are greatly tempted to sin and in which we are admonished in scripture not sin. Remember that it was name calling that Jesus said puts us in danger of the fires of hell. Let’s be vigilant that we resist the temptation to say “raka” to our brothers. Your prayers for your brothers and sisters will prove far more efficacious than name calling. Peace to you.

            • enness

              “Brood of vipers” Jesus?

              • AnsonEddy

                Good morning, enness! Peace to you! May Our Lord bless you as you continue to labor in His vineyard. I hope that you are well.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            The Pope is not beyond criticism when it comes to these casual interviews, you know. I have a lot of faith in him and in what I think he’s trying to accomplish. I also am extremely aware of how betrayed and worried some people may feel.

            Did you engage in name-calling with all the liberal Catholics who insulted Pope Benedict XVI or John Paul II, or second guessed him? For the record – I didn’t. At least, I try to differentiate between the people who are liberals first, Catholics second and those who are Catholics but also liberals.

            • enness

              “I also am extremely aware of how betrayed and worried some people may feel.”
              For what reason do they feel betrayed and worried? That’s what I don’t get.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

          I think you are missing my point. First, I don’t actually engage in name-calling, but at the same time I’m not going to get too worked up about their feelings, given that they are engaging in the the very same behavior. Neither Benedict nor Francis should be treated this way. (And, I do think Mark has been clearer as to who he means by “panicky bedwetters, although YMMV.)

          Second, I don’t think insulting Pope Francis and calling him a heretic is a “sincere disagreement,” or even indicates one, any more than “Obama is a communist Muslim!” does. If they are not going to actually articulate their disagreement with the Pope (and the people I am referring to have not, they have just been insulting and disrespectful, not only of the Pope but of the people who defend him) then I don’t think I have any obligation to do the work for them.

          Finally, there is an element of hypocrisy in all of this that is bothering me. Many of the people who have been getting on Mark’s case for weeks about the way he treats traditionalists, reactionaries, anti-Pope Francis people, etc. are strenuously arguing for charity and kindness when dealing with them. But I have seen these very same people be mocking and not at all charitable to others who disagreed with them on topics that do not touch upon traditionalism and orthodoxy. I hope this experience will actually cause them to be more charitable in the future when dealing with others.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            First, I don’t actually engage in name-calling, but at the same time I’m not going to get too worked up about their feelings, given that they are engaging in the the very same behavior.

            Who is this amorphous ‘they’? Is it the SSPX? Some other group? Because Mark didn’t pick out a particular, identifiable group. He picked out ‘the bedwetters’. I can tell you frankly that there is a good amount of consternation about the Pope’s recent interview, and while there are some pretty radical overreactions, there are also people who are far more moderate in their responses, despite their mentioning they have problems.

            Calling them names and shooting as broadly as Mark does is a mistake.

            Second, I don’t think insulting Pope Francis and calling him a heretic is a “sincere disagreement,” or even indicates one, any more than “Obama is a communist Muslim!” does.

            It’s rooted in a sincere disagreement, underneath which there is usually common ground. Why in the world are you defending namecalling and mistreatment of sincere Catholics? I have no idea who you are, but I sincerely hope it’s not because ‘they’re on the opposite side of me politically’! Because if so? You’re rather illustrating the problem here.

            Many of the people who have been getting on Mark’s case for weeks about the way he treats traditionalists, reactionaries, anti-Pope Francis people, etc. are strenuously arguing for charity and kindness when dealing with them. But I have seen these very same people be mocking and not at all charitable to others who disagreed with them on topics that do not touch upon traditionalism and orthodoxy.

            Then maybe Mark should single them out by name. I think there’s a big difference between ‘person who is pro-choice’, ‘person who thinks abortion is acceptable at times’ and NARAL.

            But so far your response seems to be, ‘Hey, it’s totally understandable that sometimes you want to treat people who disagree with you as a big faceless enemy and call them names.’ And you know what? *Fine*. I do my own share of namecalling quite happily. But I at least try to make sure – especially when I deal with a group – that my target is clear, and my response is measured.

            Let’s see Mark name some of these ‘panicky bedwetters who think the Pope is always betraying them’. Call them out by name, at the very least. Or are we going to betray Pope Francis’ message in the process of defending him?

            • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

              The “they” are the people I refer to in my previous comments — those who have flat-out insulted the Pope and called him names, rather than articulated what exactly bothered them about what he said. If you insist, I can pull some sample quotes from Mark’s comboxes, and Simcha’s, and Akin’s, and the National Catholic Register, and Fisheater’s, and so on. It is this group of people (who are not otherwise affiliated except through their behavior with regard to the Pope) that I believe Mark is referring to. But he can certainly correct me if I am wrong.

              And for the last time, I am NOT defending name-calling. I am not excusing the term “panicky bedwetters.” I am responding to the argument that these people who insult and disrespect the Pope *and nothing more* are poor, misunderstood types with sincere qualms whom we must treat with kid gloves.

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                If you insist, I can pull some sample quotes from Mark’s comboxes, and Simcha’s, and Akin’s, and the National Catholic Register, and Fisheater’s, and so on.

                Good – do so. Because Mark should have done so, if he really wants to namecall. Pick out the people who are overreacting to an absurd extreme, who won’t listen to reason. Don’t lambast a broad group.

                And for the last time, I am NOT defending name-calling. I am not excusing the term “panicky bedwetters.” I am responding to the argument that these people who insult and disrespect the Pope *and nothing more* are poor, misunderstood types with sincere qualms whom we must treat with kid gloves.

                If you’re not excusing the term ‘panicky bedwetters’ – if you’re not excusing namecalling – then you have little argument with me.

                Even Mark seems to suggest there’s more going on here. ‘Panicky bedwetters’? It’s because they’re nervous about something, not because they merely hate the Pope.

                • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

                  A fraction of things i’ve read, because I have real-world matters to attend to:

                  “Note to the Cardinals: Next time, elect a pope who can speak the most understood language in the world, English.”

                  “He is an emmissary of darkness.”

                  Summarizing the Pope’s beliefs: “Straight pantheism.”

                  “I fear that this papacy is becoming an unmitigated disaster.”

                  “When will you realize that Francis is not a pope, but a heretical non-Catholic antipope?”

                  “We have a 1960, Flower child, hippy, “we are the world” Pope.”

                  “Pope Francis is going to do to the Catholic Church what Obama is doing to america”

                  “Franky The Papal Clown: Jorge son of Socialism in Liberation Theology Latin America, is a bigot towards the West and capitalism.”

                  “Right now I’m being about as uncharitable with my perceived enemy, Jose, as Jose is with his perceived enemies!”

                  “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks when you have to unravel and skillfully spin this “pope’s” latest statements yet again.” (This particular commentator always puts quotation marks around the word “pope” when referring to Pope Francis.)

                  “I just hope this pope is not the False Prophet as predicted , as Revelations did more or less predict that the False prophet would have millions following him, and it also seems to align with Saint Malachys predictions, the last Pope, the Beast, God help us if this is true, because if it is, it will be Armgaeddon”

                • enness

                  “Mark should have done so, if he really wants to
                  namecall. Pick out the people who are overreacting to an absurd extreme,
                  who won’t listen to reason. Don’t lambast a broad group.”

                  Oh yeah, that would have gone over REAL well! We’d be hearing all about how mean Mark is for singling them out.

          • Donna

            Several years ago I started reading Catholic blogs and was surprised by the attitude described so well above. I’m not sure which of your labels I fall under, but I am a daughter of the church. I believe what the church teaches, and I try to follow her teaching. Back when I read posts gleefully anticipating Benedict’s impending smackdown and looking forward to the resulting smaller church of only the holiest, I was appalled. I wondered how many potential converts these people had turned away by their horrible example of devout Catholicism. They seemed to totally miss the irony of how much they sounded like modern day Pharisees.

            Now, though, I’m seeing some of the same attitude expressed by more progressive/liberal Catholics as the conservative/reactionary group is discomfited by Francis. This attitude is just as ugly on them as it was on the traditionalists.

            Our faith is not politics. I really hate the way it’s been politicized with progressive/liberal vs. conservative/traditional. I really hate how the election of a new pope is turned into one side winning and the other side losing.

            • enness

              You put the lie to the idea that “minorities-of-minorities-of-minorities” are harmless and nothing to worry about.

        • enness

          “It’s not going to only be people acting like sedevacantists who will
          feel insulted. It’s anyone who has had a problem with what the Pope has
          said, or how he’s been communicating.”

          Then perhaps they should take a deep breath and consider that it wasn’t necessarily directed at them.

      • Dave G.

        Where have you read these? Certainly those doing so are wrong. But then, do two wrongs, as they say?

    • Marthe Lépine

      I would agree, however, that people who see themselves as living in a world that is hostile to them would tend to panic when they see Pope Francis trying to meet precisely the people they see as hostile to them, in the place where those people are… My advice to those panicky people would be to take a deep breath, and try to see the people Pope Francis is reaching out to as lost brothers or sisters instead of enemies. And try to give as much understanding to those supposed enemies (who are probably confused people too) as much comprehension as you claim Mark should have towards you.

    • enness

      “Don’t tell a community of socially conservative Catholics – who do have
      their flaws, I readily admit – that they’re being ‘panicky bedwetters’.”

      I’m as conservative as the next guy. Lookit, if the description is apt, we need to hear it and not complain about how mean Mark is. Again, I say this as a conservative, we are all in the same world looking at the same battleground and my pity will only carry so far.

  • Stu

    I think a good way to start looking at these things is that when you see an interview like this, especially when it’s based on the recollections of the interviewer, it’s Jorge Bergoglio speaking. When you see an encyclical or some other formal pronouncement it’s from the Office of the Pope.

    Further, to be surprised or not understanding that this distinction is not the first thing that comes to mind when the “man in white” is speaking is also a bit unrealistic.

    • contrarian

      That seems like a very generous way to go about things. I won’t dispute it for the sake of not getting yelled at here by the host. But we might point out that if it’s just good ‘ol Jorge chewing the fat, then perhaps they should take it down from the website.

      http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2013/october/index_en.htm

      • Marthe Lépine

        Oh! Now you claim to be the Vatican’s webmaster and to know better than them what should be on their site!

    • Dan C

      This sounds like the “Encyclical in Red and Gold” process Weigel used to read out of papal pronouncements all those things we don’t like to hear.

      • Stu

        Are newspaper interviews “papal pronouncements?”

        • Dan C

          Well…if it was a notation during an election year on how to vote on some pretty conservative culture war icons, sure, it would be an ex cathedra pronouncement. Even if the speaker were not yet pope.

          So.,.the Jesuit magazine interview is on the vatican website as is the letter to the atheist (why give him a name?). That would constitute more official approval. It sits on the website like all those pious Bemedict quotes from his General audiences and Angelus statements everyone would eat up on the piety blogs.

          • Stu

            Dude. Really.

            Popes don’t speak officially via magazine article. Even Pope Benedict put a disclaimer on his book explaining to people that it was just his opinion and not a magisterial act.

            I realize you like to play everything off of political conservative/liberal mindset but that isn’t my concern.

        • Dan C

          How about television and radio interviews? And is this Joseph Ratzinger or Pope Benedict?

          http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/77523?eng=y

          Just say it: if a pope says something I don’t like, like in Caritas in Veritate, I will understand it as written in the red pen of Weigel’s imagining.

          • Stu

            I’m not George Weigel. Take it up with him.

            However, you don’t have to agree with the Pope on everything. It’s the Office we respect and that which has the power to bind, loose or speak on faith and morals, not the man.

            From Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth.

            “Of course, it goes without saying that this book is absolutely not a magisterial act, but is only the expression of my personal search for the “face of the Lord” (Psalm 27:8). So everyone is free to disagree with me. I ask only that my readers begin with that attitude of good will without which there is no understanding.”

            Of course.

          • Marthe Lépine

            I have just followed the link you gave and read that entire article. And my strongest impression reading it is that in many instances Pope Benedict was saying exactly the same things as Pope Francis, but in different words. Thus, what I would advise people who are puzzled by what Pope Francis is saying is to go back and carefully read what Pope Benedict has been saying. Same message, different style, and if Pope Francis’s style confuses you, re-read Pope Benedict. As for myself, I must admit that I had not been that interested in reading all the articles and comments about Pope Benedict, or even his books, but that since Pope Francis’ election, I have spent much more time reading about Pope Francis, partly because of his personality, and in great part because of all the criticisms expressed about him. Now I will probably go back to reading Pope Benedict and finding all the common threads…

  • Dave G.

    Perhaps focusing on what the Pope is saying, rather than those who misunderstand. Or at least focus on everyone who is not getting it. I mean, right now it appears those rascally reactionaries aren’t the only ones misconstruing the Pope. And if they are saying ‘He’s betrayed us!’, many on the other side are saying ‘thank God we have a Pope who’s ready to tear down those embarrassing pillars of a backward church built on discrimination, sexism and bigotry.’ I’d actually say more are in that last category than the first. So yeah, I’m sure there are some really far out types in the traditionalist world who are going overboard. But perhaps some equal time to the much larger crowd that is taking his words in the other direction, assuming that is as bad of course.

    • jeff

      I have been taking the time to understand what Pope Francis really meant and I appreciate the work of Fr Z and others to clarify and put into context the troubling phrases.

      the trouble is others don’t. all he’s achieving is making non catholics feel better about staying non catholic and lax, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage catholics feel better about being in favour of those morally unacceptable things.

      A. the way, I will eat humble pie if lax catholics flood back to mass and confession and RCIA classes are filled to bursting with sincere, spiritually hungry catechumens as a result of the word and example of Pope Francis.

      • Dave G.

        Ross Douthat has the best take on this so far. As he said, most – most, no doubt not all – Catholics aren’t screaming ‘heretic!’ Most Conservative Catholics are simply worried that, in the end, they’ve seen this approach before.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

          Douthat’s conclusion is even better — “By his fruits we will know — but not for some time yet.”

          My advice to people genuinely concerned with this Papacy is patience and trust. My advice to people who mock and insult the Pope is “grow up.”

          • Dave G.

            Of course they shouldn’t mock or insult. Nobody should. The old ‘two wrongs do too make a right, buster!’ argument isn’t worth much. Some go over board in any argument about anything on any side of it. Let’s focus on those who are raising valid points, or as Douthat points out, at least have valid reasons to question. It isn’t as if this approach hasn’t been tried and, on more than one occasion, been found wanting.

            • enness

              When has “this approach” been tried?

              I don’t see pandering…

        • Dan C

          No. Most complaining conservatives are angry that they aren’t “winning.” that this sounds too liberal. And its all about winning- not just pro-life winning, but Culture War winning.

          • Dave G.

            You’ll have to take that up with Douthat, who seems to think otherwise, for instance that some conservatives actually might have sincere and honest reasons for being concerned.

            • Dan C

              Tell me which conservatives have broadcast their support for Benedict’s first and third encyclicals? I maintain they ignored him and can’t ignore Francis.

              • Dave G.

                I never said conservatives were all gaga about Benedict. My point is now the narrative seems to be the Conservatives loved Benedict in all ways but have hated Francis. In fact, I contend the opposite. At least in the early years of Benedict, all I heard was how Conservatives blasted him for not being Conservative enough. Now I’m hearing how they just adored the man, but really hate Francis. Again, it’s a trend I’m trying to put my finger on and figure out. I don’t have a conclusion yet. But it’s the sort of thing that gives me pause.

      • Marthe Lépine

        I remember reading somewhere else (but I do not have the time now to review all the blogs I have been reading in order to make a precise list) that there has been in fact a large number of people flooding to confession. It did not say whether they were lax or not, however…

      • Heather

        Well, for one completely anecdotal data point, my parish’s RCIA program last year had two people entering the Church (it was the first time we had such a program in many years largely due to administrative issues). This year, we have something like 8-10 potential baptisms, one or two baptized in other denominations, and three lapsed-and-returning Catholics attending for the catechesis but not strictly speaking the sacramental prep. There will likely be some attrition over the course of the year but I’d still call it significant.

        • enness

          Hard to know whether that’s the normal course of something that just restarted. Either way, it’s good news.

      • enness

        If that happens, it will not be the work of any man.

        I have been looking for weeks for an opportunity to invite a friend to confession. I was dumbfounded when said friend brought it up apropos of almost nothing, without my prompting at all. The message was clear: “I AM” in charge.

        In any case, if he keeps at it — and remember that he has excommunicated a dissenting priest — you’re going to have an opportunity to blow somebody’s mind who finds out you’re okay with Pope Francis. They’re not going to see it coming and will wonder how this can be. Already, somebody I know asked me (again, apropos of nothing) what I thought about him.

    • enness

      Why should one spend equal time on the latter group doing what they have always done, and likely always will, compared to the former group who ought to know better?

  • SteveP

    Aw Mark! You tipped your hand – now everybody knows you’re hooked in with the NSA. How else would you know who does or does not wet the bed? ;-)

    • Dale

      Shhh… can you keep a secret? Mark, in real life, is Santa Claus.

      Remember, this is a secret. Don’t tell anyone else!

      • SteveP

        Ooooo! The beard is a clue that I completely missed. But mum’s the word.

        • Marthe Lépine

          But, of course he has to dye it red in order to protect his identity outside of his work time…

      • Dillon T. McCameron

        Jolly Pride, indeed!

  • Sharon

    Mark, your “panicky bedwetters” description of concerned Catholics, who maybe not as knowledgeable as you on Church matters and then continuing on “personally I …” strikes me as a bit like the Pharisee in the temple.
    Would you describe as a “panicky bedwetter” someone who was afraid of heights or would you try and calm their fears and tell them why it was ok to walk across the roadway bridge and then walk with them?
    You seem to become very angry very quickly with people with whom you disagree whether it be a topic or a manner of expression. In real life are people afraid of crossing you because your verbal sarcasm and vile labelling will make them feel like idiots or do you save this side of your personality for your blog?

    • Marthe Lépine

      I do not think that someone who was afraid of heights would be as stridently vocal in their criticism as the so-called concerned Catholics who are so vocally criticizing Pope Francis. Someone who is genuinely confused should humbly acknowledge that they need explanations, not claim that it is somehow Pope Francis responsibility to spell everything in exactly the way they are used to hear it,and that his failure to do so means that he is irresponsible in his statements, or lacks judgement, as some authors of comments on this very thread are claiming. Or even that Pope Francis comments sound like on heresy! In other words, someone who is genuinely confused should not sound so superior.

      • enness

        A couple years ago I read ‘Games People Play.’ Kind of dated, I think, but still useful…since then I have found that much of people’s seemingly inexplicable behavior becomes understandable when one looks for the payoff they might be getting. Not saying this is true of all or even most, but with some of the pleas for indulgence I see, I think the payoff is probably becoming the center of attention (or trying).

    • Dan C

      How often do you complain when one of your favored enemies is labeled on the web with a hyperbolic descriptor? How many times did you rush to defend nuns described as old and grey when they were liberal? How often did you defend gays when called “perverts” on those reputedly orthodox websitess like NCRegister?

      Why are you offended now after the conservative Catholic blogging world routinely mocks liberals (check the Archbolds or the American Catholic for examples)? I like the descriptors, they add color to the conversation.

    • enness

      “Would you describe as a “panicky bedwetter” someone who was afraid of
      heights or would you try and calm their fears and tell them why it was
      ok to walk across the roadway bridge and then walk with them?”

      Depends on their willingness to try. If they just want to be indulged, then a different approach is required.

  • AnsonEddy

    You are a Catholic writer whose charism is to explain the faith. You have confused and hurting people coming to you who have need of that charism right now. They need you to patiently explain the faith to them. They are in need of it. Don’t be the guy who has to say to the Lord on that day, “But Lord, when did I see you in need?” Because he is standing before you now. You have a charism of teaching, Mark. And St. James urges you to regard it soberly, because you will answer for how it is used.

    • Marthe Lépine

      However, some (or many) of the people Mark is supposed to be teaching are acting and speaking as unruly kids who have made it clear that they will not listen to the teacher. They need some strong language to wake them up and take them out of themselves and their assumption of moral superiority, otherwise it seems that they will not be even willing to listen. Many do sound like they will only listen to someone who agrees with them.

      • AnsonEddy

        If these people “will not listen to the teacher”. Then they are by definition not open to suasion. So why engage them? What can Mark say to a person who has declared Pope Francis an anti-pope? This is not a person open to anything Mark has to say to them. So no matter how satisfying it might be to blast them with some choice turns of phrase, it is the equivalent of burying one’s talent in the Earth. It has no potential for return.

        • said she

          So we should leave them in the dark? Aren’t we supposed to help each other? You know: fraternal correction?

          “I was ignorant, and you failed to teach Me.” Actually, it’s worse than that: “I was leading others toward a cliff, and you failed to try to stop Me.” Fraternal correction is a vitally important duty, even if the student refuses to listen to the teacher (at the moment). You don’t know how today’s efforts will play out. But we can easily see how today’s silence will bear zero fruit.

          Also, note that the audience is more diverse than that. There are many who read the blogs to get enough input to better understand the situation, and form their opinions from that info. Even the ranting supplies information that can be useful in forming opinions on the current topic, and can make us better at seeing future issues more clearly.

          • AnsonEddy

            If “panicky bedwetters” even approached the orbital gravity of “fraternal correction” then this might be a point worth considering.

          • Marthe Lépine

            I think another way of saying what you said refers to “admonishing the sinners”, which if I am not mistaken is a work of spiritual mercy.

    • jenny

      JP2 was asked one time how many work in Vatican….. he said: “half”… so, Mark may be quite right in what he said….

      • linda daily

        That was Pope John XXIII. Let’s not misappropriate Good Pope John’s best one liner.

    • Dan C

      Hyperbolic descriptors, when focused on something close to home offend, but did you complain when Mark referred to Middle Eastern mobs as “bronze age barbarians” or gay political activists as “brown shirts?” what was your opinion then, that the complainers were heterodox whiners of questionable character?

      • Dave G.

        Why should they? Calling someone bed wetters because they see things differently, vaguely defined, is different than calling someone a descriptive term who beheads a woman for wanting rights or for people who cheer government officials punishing someone for not endorsing gay marriage. Mark makes clear who those are aimed at in your examples, and who they aren’t. The problem with this, it hasn’t been made clear with clear links and examples. If someone is out there calling the Pope horrible things and calling for schism, and we have links and stories, and that’s who the term applies to, fair enough. But right now, it’s a bit vague. Some might even go so far to say that it’s being used to shut down honest debate.

        • Dan C

          It certainly hasn’t shut down the conservative mainstream voices like Archbold, or the American Catholic, Longenecker, or Over the Rhine and into the Tiber.

          And let’s look at the level of permissible outright rejection and criticism tolerated on EWTN organs like NCRegister of this pope. Unheard of! Why? Because he is liberal! He sounds progressive!

          This confirms suspicion that any organ that is so-called orthodox really is a tool of the culture wars and politics. EWTN has made its stand- a Latin American Jesuit pope can be denounced on its media sites. Torture can be praised. Libertarianism has a voice! EWTN’s reputed orthodoxy is now revealed as a sham. While some cracks showed through over the past decade, it is evident it is just a conservative partisan.

          • Dave G.

            I didn’t say succeed in shutting it down. Sometimes such things are ways we shut it down in our own minds. Having defined someone’s opinions in such a way, we no longer feel obliged to listen.

            Actually, some of the places you mention have allowed for quite a lot of debate, and people on various sides of various issues have complained over the years. Which is probably par for the course.

            As for the rest, that’s your opinion. Fair enough. But I’m sure not everyone sees any organization adhering to orthodoxy as a subversive branch of some culture war machine. Just like I’m sure those on the Left don’t see things as it is often applied to them.

            • Dan C

              Longenecker- has permitted some debate. The American Catholic fairly debates issues on a very narrow spectrum of American politics- the isolationist libertarian who self-identifies as Catholic and the militarist libertarian who self-identifies as Catholic. No other viewpoint is treated with respect. Over the Rhine and into the Tiber reaks with derision for political opponents and religious differences.

              Conservative Catholics are feeding into the stereotypes liberals have for them. It makes no difference that Francis is saying nearly word for word what Benedict said. Benedict was useful for conservatives because liberals unjustly disliked him. Francis is hated by conservatives because liberals like him. At least that is the clear message. Theologically, they have little difference between them.

              • Dave G.

                My experience is that both conservatives and liberals have those who feed into the stereotypes. Catholics and Protestants, too. Atheists and religious. Democrats and Republicans. It can’t be avoided. Especially if we’re looking for it.

                BTW, I remember when Benedict became Pope. Back then, people were blasting the “Catholic Conservatives” who, apparently, weren’t happy with him for being too soft on liberal dissent or some such thing. I think they were being lampooned for Benedict not being Der Panzer Pappa enough for them.

                It seems to me, one can either discuss an issue and see if there are areas worthy of debate, or we can lean on the always dependable stereotypes or the always reliable ‘it’s the way it is now shut up!’ I prefer debate and discussion.

                • Dan C

                  Perhaps what you don’t recall was the eagerness of the conservatives to see their enemies thrown out of the pews. I need only to refer to Amy Welborn’s posts the week of Benedict’s ascendancy. She shut down the comments at least once because the comboxes exploded with conservative eagerness to have its smaller pure church. Conservatives wanted all enemies “out.”

                  This was also at the height of conservative political ascendancy in America, and American conservative Catholics misrepresented routinely the New Testament, Paul, and Catholic dogma, defining all its economic leanings and militaristic impulses as equivalent to the faith.

                  No. Benedict’s ascendancy was eagerly greeted by American conservatives online as a triumph, and they awaited his “closing of the cafeteria”- a blogged was named after that- and his mass excommunications.

                  If one reads Weigel’s WSJ wish list for a Culture Warrior pope last spring, one can see how things haven’t changed.

                  • Dave G.

                    And likewise, I remember Conservatives being blasted for criticizing Benedict for not being conservative enough. Or for being wishy washy. Or for several things that apparently didn’t matter, since now I’m hearing how the Conservatives actually loved and adored Benedict all along. Turns out they loved Benedict, but have hated Francis. To be honest, there’s a trend there I’m picking up.

                    Though clearly you have little use for Conservatives in general. I’m no big fan either, in general. But I’m not a fan of liberalism either, in general. I have little use for a movement that declares as long as I conform to its dogmatic definitions of diversity, they’re completely tolerant of everyone who thinks as they demand they think. Still, it isn’t as if criticisms of Conservatives, or Conservatives in politics, or Conservatives molesting teddy bears don’t have their place. But in the end, it’s irrelevant to the point. Some – even Conservatives if it can be believed – can wonder about Francis and what he’s saying and what he’s trying to accomplish and how he’s going about doing it, without doing so for vile reasons.

        • enness

          “Calling someone bed wetters because they see things differently, vaguely defined, is different than calling someone a descriptive term who beheads a woman for wanting rights or for people who cheer government
          officials punishing someone for not endorsing gay marriage.”

          LOL! Yes, of course, it’s always different when the victims are me, myself, and I.

      • AnsonEddy

        Forgive me, but I don’t entirely understand what you are asking here. To determine if my advice is solid we have to determine how often and under what circumstances I’ve offered it in the past? For the record I think I’ve long advocated that Mark be more gentle in crafting his message. But I don’t really comment that much on his site, so maybe my record doesn’t appear perfect. Perhaps he should go ahead and ignore it then?

        • Dan C

          I would be interested if you ever asked if Mark should be gentler in crafting his message when the target is one of Catholic conservativism’s favored enemies.

          • AnsonEddy

            Hi, Dan. I hope you are well. I am pleased that you have found joy in this new papacy. I hope you enjoy the rest of this weekend. And I wish you the best in your endeavors to move the Church closer to the person of Jesus.

            • Dan C

              I actually am a huge Benedict fan. Huge. I see Francis using nearly the same words as Benedict. Benedict was just ignored.

    • enness

      Or maybe they need a dose of cold water to the face. People don’t always know what they need, nor are they always straightforward about it even when they do.

      • AnsonEddy

        Thank you for your stalwart service in building God’s Kingdom. May He continue to bless and keep you.

  • jenny

    …Pope Francis woke up the Vatican workers who were afraid to go out in the street to encounter real life (behind the wall is more easy to write rules).
    Mark may have woken up some of us here……who knows….

  • contrarian

    “WHY DOES THE POPE ALLOW HIMSELF TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD????!!!! IT’S A VERY BAD SIGN THAT THE POPE IS CONSTANTLY HAVING TO HAVE HIS WORDS EXPLAINED!!!!!!!”

    Well, I think this thought can be worded in a way that doesn’t involve all-caps. I think it’s a shame that fine bloggers across the land have to spend so much time explaining why nothing that Francis says is doctrinally suspect. I think it’s incorrect to say that these fine bloggers must resort to the work of explaining what Francis ‘really meant’ only because of faulty confirmation bias, terrible reading comprehension by the MSM, and/or the stubborn and thick skulls of the faithful masses. Yes, the MSM wants to run with a particular narrative, and yes, people can be stubborn and dim. But that’s not the entire story here.

    As much as I like reading blogs, we just shouldn’t need them to comment on the pope this much. He should be able to speak for himself. As it is, the copious commentary on the pope’s words (and words and words) isn’t redundant. If these fine bloggers are in fact hugely edifying, and if they do in fact provide much needed clarification, then we have a problem–especially since the commentary isn’t entirely consistent among the like-minded.

    (I worry that one of these days, some faithful blogger out there in blog land, earning next to nothing toiling away at the keys, and doing his damnedest to spread the faith and be faithful to the pope, is going to get punked, Sokal-style. They are going to get asked to clarify something doctrinally fuzzy that they think comes from Francis, but that actually comes from Kung or some such person. )

    “Yeah. Totally unlike, say, Jesus Christ, whose words have only had to be explained every single day for 2000 years by the Church.”

    I think this is one of those times when the phrase “apples and oranges” is appropriate.

    • Dave G.

      Not apples and oranges. It’s an appropriate point to make. Just because a person is misunderstood doesn’t mean it’s his fault or that those misunderstanding him must be right. On the other hand, Jesus has a definite advantage in that any misunderstanding is automatically the problem of those misunderstanding. That doesn’t always apply to others. I can’t assume every time I’m misunderstood that it’s everyone else’s fault. Same for Popes. So far there are two facts regarding Pope Francis. One, everything he has done or said can be explained or defended. Two, half of everything he has done or said has needed explained or defended. At some point, if this trend continues, it’s fair to ask why.

      • contrarian

        Dave G,
        “At some point, if this trend continues, it’s fair to ask why.”

        Agreed.

        It’s also fair, however, to ask if the only acceptable interpretation of his confusing wordage is the one given by the ‘conservative’ crowd.
        Cardinal Kasper recently admitted (as if this was news to anyone) that many passages in the VII documents were written to be deliberately vague, so as to allow camps with differing ideas of the Church (and its disciplines and dogmas) to both ‘run’ with their preferred narrative. Perhaps Francis, described by some as a ‘VII purist’, chooses words so as to allow something similar?

        It seems to me as if we are left with three ways to go about this:

        1) We say that Francis is clear as day, and that any idea that he’s anything other than a faithful ‘son of the Church’, with a completely traditional, ho-hum agenda and set of ideas, is nuts. We further say that the only reason that anyone thinks anything differently is because of insane confirmation bias, terrible reading comprehension, or malicious intent.
        2) We say that, much like the documents of the second Vatican Council, Francis sometimes speaks in a way that is deliberately vague, so as to allow precisely what we see currently. To wit: competing camps both seeing in Francis what they want to see.
        3) We say that Francis is a ho-hum traditional sort, but that he just doesn’t choose his words very well. He’s also not particularly careful, in that he lets a 88 year old man, who is ideologically opposed to the faith, summarize, sans tape recorder or notes, a conversation they had…and that he furthermore lets this summary stand as the unchallenged, official record, to be linked to on the Vatican website.

        It seems to me that we have to go with 2 or 3.

        • Dave G.

          Actually it appears that 1. is quite popular. Nonetheless, in these early months, it’s probably worth waiting to see how things pan out. I think that there are more than just a few different ways to approach it. As Douthat points out, most ‘conservative’ Catholics wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, believe that the Pope can ‘Change Doctrine’. Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t fail to achieve his mission. It’s not as if this hasn’t been tried before. So watch and see, and resist the temptation to smack down anyone who chooses to look at things in a different way. I figure we can’t go wrong with that.

          • contrarian

            Dave G.,

            “I figure we can’t go wrong with that.”

            True dat. And anyway, we all have to pick our battles. The battle over Francis just isn’t where I’d prefer to concentrate my limited mental energy. So yeah, my lack of interest in Francis’ doings end up fortuitously aligning with, and therefore allow me to coincidentally say that I’m adopting, the wisest choice of action. :)

        • Marthe Lépine

          So, in 3, you challenge Pope Francis judgement. On what authority? If Pope Francis has read the summary of that conversation and let it stand unchallenged, who are you to claim that Pope Francis was unable to discern the correctness of that summary? Were you present during the conversation?

          • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

            Why is Francis incapable of poor judgment in your opinion? The human norm is anyone can fall to that sort of thing.

            Popes certainly can have poor judgment on matters such as who they let get on their interview schedule. You don’t have to have any particular authority to notice that. There are a couple of places in the Bible where Peter blew it. I think those sections are in there specifically so we don’t adopt the Protestant caricature of papal infallibility where a pope cannot have poor judgment.

            • Dan F.

              agreed, minor quibble – I think you meant to say “Protestant caricature of papal impeccability” vs “infallibility”, no?

              • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                I actually meant infallibility, but now I learned about impeccability. I meant that some Protestants believe that Catholics believe that Popes never wrongly predict the weather or get an upset stomach from eating the wrong food. It’s not a sin for the Pope to make a poor choice in interviewer, but it is a mistake. That’s not an earth shaking problem but it does mean that Pope Francis has room for improvement.

                So we cover for the little mistakes of our brother, the Pope and this small service is absolutely worth it because he is lighting up some treasures of the Church that need to get back into prominent rotation. Net status, a big win and spiritual growth all around.

            • enness

              Unless the reasoning goes, I didn’t like what he said, ergo it must be poor judgment.

              • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                Yes, agreed, one should not be ridiculous (I hope you agree the position you outlined is ridiculous). This is another protestant caricature, the mind numbed Catholic robots in mandated lockstep with the Pope. I don’t think there’s a Pope out there that’s ever been perfect, and I include the saints. All have been human and occasionally flubbed something.

          • contrarian

            Hi Marthe,

            “So, in 3, you challenge Pope Francis judgement.”

            Definitely. But I challenge more than that in 2.

            3 is the safe route!

            “…who are you to claim that Pope Francis was unable to discern the correctness of that summary?”

            But that’s the beauty of it: I’m not anybody!

            • enness

              Why is 3 the safe route? I would go with 2…any day.

    • enness

      “I think it’s a shame that fine bloggers across the land have to spend so
      much time explaining why nothing that Francis says is doctrinally
      suspect.”

      I think it’s a shame too, because I rather doubt it’s the subject they would prefer to write about. But when comments like the one at the head of your post — which, aside from being in all caps, is verbatim what I’ve been seeing and hearing all over the place — reach a certain critical mass, you can’t just ignore it anymore.

  • CatholicP.R.is solemn nonsense

    Funny how self-appointed P.R. men and women for the Pope like Shea and Simcha will twist themselves any way they have to to defend whatever the Pope says (or didn’t say, or whatever), and they attack anybody who dares to assert the non-negotiability of Catholic Tradition. By they way, the Vatican website still has the Scalfari interview up under papal speeches. Yep, this papacy is inspiring a lot of confidence. But don’t worry, the Holy Spirit!

    • Marthe Lépine

      You sound as if you did not believe what Jesus said: That he would be with His Church always and that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. That is what it means when we Catholics express confidence in the support of the Holy Spirit for the Church. Your confidence should come from this promise of Jesus, not from what the Pope does or says or does not say…

      • Dave G.

        That promise, if I understand it, does not mean that every Pope will be perfect, awesome and always right about everything. If that’s the case, and that’s what Jesus meant, then we have a major problem on our hands since it appears at least a couple Popes in history were less than stellar, or at least not always right.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Hey, have you ever heard about a pope from the past who was a member of a family called Borgia? The Church did not collapse under his papacy! The kind of comments I see in comboxes and that are not even polite, and show a lot of hostility, and claim that Pope Francis is an enemy of the Church, or other such calamities, or reference to “we have a major problem on our hands” sound very Protestant to me. The Church will not collapse because you do not like what this Pope says; however, a lot of Pope Francis critics sound very very Protestant, and if this impression is correct, it is you in particular, and other people who argue the way you do, who are in real danger.

          • CatholicP.R.is solemn nonsense

            No one is talking about complete collapse or the end of the Church. What we ARE realistic about is damage done by poor leadership. Go back and read about the Arian controversy. The vast majority of the Church was then Arian, which is to say that they didn’t believe in the full divinity of Jesus. The Pope at that time was not a heretic, but he was quite shaky on the issue. It was Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, who saved the Church from that crisis. Basic fact of Church history: Some Bishops of Rome have done damage to the Church.

          • Dave G.

            That’s a different point. You had suggested that those who were questioning Francis did not know about Jesus’ promise. I merely pointed out what is meant by Jesus’ promise. You’ll note I said nothing about that and the collapse of the church. And no, the observation isn’t Protestant. Such loose accusations make me think there is something to be said about questioning the interviews of Francis. Especially if the reaction by the Faithful is ‘shut up and obey his awesomeness or we’ll call you names and accuse you of Protestant thinking!’ Nothing makes me imagine there is something behind the curtain worth examining than that approach.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I was not questioning whether those who were questioning Pope Francis knew or not about Jesus’ promise. I was wondering if they actually believed it.

              • Dave G.

                I’m sure they do. That’s Douthat’s point. People can say ‘gee, I’m a little bothered by what the Pope is doing’ and be perfectly fine with believing what Jesus said.

                • Stu

                  In actuality, what we are seeing in response to so-called “panicky bedwetters” who see gloom and doom in the Pope’s remarks is a panicky response by some Catholics who seem a bit insecure with the notion that that Pope could 1) actually do something poorly and 2) that someone might recognize it. Thus the response of lumping any minute criticism into the same category as calling him a heretic.

                  • Mariana Baca

                    No, it is more that we are seeing a pope that — misinterpreted or not– seems beloved by the “world” and we see it as an opportunity for evangelism. To have people react to that wonderful scenario with “Gah! worst pope evah” or “why does he bother speaking?” or other variations on extreme negativity on what should be a *good* phenomenon — a pope engaging people where they are at and drawing them in to dialog — is frustrating.

                    Basically — it is thinking that the pope is doing something “poorly” when he is actually generating positive engagement from those outside the catholic fold without changing or abridging Catholicism in any way that generates such response.

                    • Stu

                      I think it is frustrating to any critique of the actions of the Pope, even benign, met with such a response. People can respectfully disagree. Are there those on the extreme in critiquing the Pope? Absolutely. But many who come to his defense seem to have no filter when it comes to gaging legitimate criticisms based one legitimate differences of opinion.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      On the other hand, even if people are allowed to disagree, it does not have to be so vocally or with such negative terms which actually suggest a certain amount of hostility.

                    • Stu

                      That statement cuts both ways.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      Oh, I did not make myself clear enough. I only referred there to people who are criticizing Pope Francis. If they want to yell and rant at each other, it’s up to them to choose. However SOME (e.g. not all) comments about Pope Francis did sound insulting, too vocally negative, as well as arrogant as the commenters did sound as if they considered themselves as having to “supervise” what Pope Francis did or said.

                    • Stu

                      And SOME (not all) comments about those who have criticisms of the Pope’s actions were insulting, vocally negative as well as arrogant as the commenters did sound as if they considered themselves as having to defend every little thing that the Pope does.

                      Again, it cuts both ways.

                    • enness

                      Perhaps we differ in our understanding of “benign.”

                    • Stu

                      So is it possible to have any benign criticism of the Pope or is such talk forbidden? Is he infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of ffaith and morals or is he impeccable?

            • enness

              To be quite honest, you were not abundantly clear in your post above.

  • Charlotte

    I’m wondering if you’d consider the opinions expressed by Carl E. Olson, http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2622/pope_francis_the_good_the_baffling_and_the_unclear.aspx#.UlGh0BDrIbg, and endorsed by Fr. Longenecker, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/10/the-scalfari-interview-gaffe.html. to be within realm of acceptable questioning.

    I think they’re more worried than they need to be, but I also think they make some good points. At the very least, the contributions of people like Fr. Longenecker and Olson to this discussion deserve thoughtful consideration.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I have just read those two articles that you have linked, but I have previously read quite a lot of other comments, about several of Mark’s posts on Pope Francis. From this reading, I have certainly noticed that many of the comments on Mark’s blogs are based on Mr. Olson’s articles, and/or on the ideas expressed by Mr. Olson that may have been inspired by previous articles by others. And for this reason, I actually disagree with you. I maybe am strange, but when I read the reports of Pope Francis various statements over the last few months, I did not find them unclear. For example this thing about talking about abortion, contraception and gay marriage all the time? Well, it corresponds perfectly to my impression of most conservative Catholics in your country, as a group, and I cannot just list all the individual comments and articles I have read that give me that impression.Just that as a whole, they certainly give that impression. Another example: Those people who claim that because there are not many homilies that do focus on abortion, contraception and gay marriage, these subjects are not an “obsession”. Well, one thing is that the people who are in church on Sundays and listen to the homilies should already know those basics, there is no need to keep preaching to the choir. And those subjects should be a matter of education. Just as one example, the best place to discuss contraception, for example, would be in marriage preparation sessions, or married peoples retreats, or privately with individual couples. In fact, in church on Sunday you have a mix of people of all ages and levels of knowledge of the faith, including children who may be too young to be exposed to clear teachings about contraception in a public setting such as a church – it should be parents who introduce such matters in age-appropriate ways. And many seniors probably do not, or no longer, need to spend time listening to lectures about contraception. Similar things could probably be said about those other subjects. As well, I have seen so many combox discussions, on a variety of subjects, been brought back to abortion that I clearly get the impression that for some, it is an obsession. Particularly when abortion is discussed without much, if any, reference to the life of mothers facing difficulties with their pregnancies, after they have been convinced by street outreach people to not abort their babies. In fact, I have noticed a certain distancing that some Catholic women writing in comboxes seem to take from single mothers – e.g. those mothers who did not abort. It seems to me that abortion needs to be discussed within the context of the entire life of both children and their mothers – not so much while keeping in mind that those mothers are sinners, as if we were not all sinners – and including the needs of both mothers and children during the entire life of those children, including for example, single mothers who are trying to support their kids once they are teens…
      And this is only one of the issues brought up about what Pope Francis is saying, that I am able to perfectly understand. Maybe it is because I am an outsider from another country, without the ideological baggage and tribalism that I perceive when I read Catholic blogs from the US…

      • Rachel

        I agree and i think your perceptions are mostly correct too :( .

      • enness

        I find it a bit telling that some folks assumed him to have been talking about the clergy, not the laity. I felt the point was aimed somewhat at me too, and I got it loud and clear.

  • http://www.logosandmuse.com/ Scott Eric Alt

    The problem is PFDS. Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome. It has three manifestations. Among the anti-Catholic Protestants, it takes the form of smarmy spiritual superiority. Among the progressive media, it takes the form of pink elephant and unicorn sitings (e.g., “The pope will ordain women!” “The pope will mandate lesbian sex!”). And among traditionalist Catholics, it manifests itself as paranoia (e.g., “The pope will ordain women!” “The pope will mandate lesbian sex!”) AND as smarmy spiritual superiority.

    Now, the difficulty with PFDS is that even I–who consider myself, naturally, the most level-headed person in human existence–have become so jaded that every time I see a headline that starts with the words “Pope Francis says,” I instinctively cringe: Oh no! What ludicrous misquotation awaits me in this article?

  • Elliot Bougis

    He didn’t tape the interview?! And yet… the Pope vetted it, his spokesman has fundamentally vindicated it, and the Vatican has endorsed it by posting it for the world to see as one of the Pope official speeches. Strange times, indeed. See my blog for further analysis, if interested: http://ebougis.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/this-isnt-denzinger/

  • AquinasMan

    “Yeah. Totally unlike, say, Jesus Christ, whose words have only had to be explained every single day for 2000 years by the Church.”

    Close the book. That’s the quote of the year, Mark.

  • jackryan

    this is hilarious. the very same people, i.e., you Mark Shea, and Simcha Fisher, who were defending every word of that interview are not exulting that perhaps it was all mis-transcribed — even though Francis has not said so. Keep twisting yourselves into pretzels if it makes you feel good. But you just are looking and sounding naive.

  • jackryan

    now exulting…

  • david

    How dare Francis speak without first considering how Catholic combox lay insuisitors will understand his words? Perhaps instead of engaging the largely secular culture around him, he should be obsessively checking blog comments every twenty seconds to see if he needs to set somebody straight.